I am tired of D.C. journalists asking me if I am a Russian. I am typing this message for the journalism border patrol.
I am not sure if what I will say can be filed under “gentle anarchism” as some people I know would say, I do not consider myself a leftie and sure as hell, not the right wing. Which brings me to a position of a moderate worldview regarding all things political. I dislike extremism in any form, and I want to be as far as I can from any uniform opinion and ways of looking at the world.
While I dislike the political right-wing wave that is growing more prominent in America after Donald Trump was elected and with Steve Bannon meeting right-wing leaders of Europe in flats in Arlington, I am not crazy either, about the rise of socialism. Nor about the officialdom now running on the anti-establishment presidential card: “I won’t be taking donations from corporate and special interests”.
I do however share Bill Clinton’s concern about how over twenty candidates joining the race in the Democratic field pose little chance to rise up, apart from Bernie Sanders who, love him or hate him, has been consistent in his political platform and has built his own progressive enterprise.
I have also lived through enough political turbulence that America luckily has not seen to date to know that removing Trump from power will not be an easy feat and that the political messages focusing against Donald instead of offering political vision won't work either. You can only attack your political opponent so much. At some point, you will have to start mobilizing people on the basis of your vision for America, and the vision without Trump is incomplete as, I said that once at Yale, you can vote Trump out, but you must make sure to vote out the retrograde political ideas. Ideas, that have some strange way of resurfacing after a period of being buried deep underground.
Politics repeats itself, the problem with America is that no one quite understands until it starts happening on your soil. In that sense, Europe is much more attuned in nationalism, polarization, and politically incorrect rhetoric. The history lesson in mistakes Europe made through centuries is available for public access. Why not use it to avoid making the same mistakes in America?
In the American politics of black and white, the frenemy and a foe, at times where the President of the United States attacks the FBI and at the same time has been investigated for a Russian collusion, in the hour of “ trust but verify” political playbook, the Russian mania has reached a point of a walking paranoia in Washington DC.
Although I am neither Russian nor do I speak Russian, the default position toward me because of my Slavic last name, Pavlovic, has reached a point of prejudice and borderline discrimination that I no longer want to stay silent about.
While I understand the depth of illicit actions of the Russian government in the Mueller Report, and I have widely published a critical take on the Trump-Putin relationship, I am also not blind to the formation of an overworked, cultural stereotype. A big problem is that the two-year Russian collusion investigation has placed a stigma on all Russian people including the Russian expat community in America. There are many people in those communities who do not support Putin. Many journalists as well who risk their lives to report the truth and endure difficulties no journalists will ever experience in America as long as there is the First Amendment including the system of checks and balances in place.
Anti-Russian sentiment in D.C. is creating a very tense political air, and the statements are made without a clear distinction between the Russian government and the Russian people. Conflating the two will only create a less tolerant world.
The black and white polarization that is present between the America of Republicans vs the America of Democrats has left little to free interpretation. The dichotomy of Bad vs. Good, Isolationist vs. Globalist is inducing an oversimplified view of the world, cultures, and identity politics. Generalizations are not representative of systematic thinking. Not all Russians are bad. Not all Democrats are crazy socialists. Not all Republicans are Second Amendment fanatics.
It has become very difficult to work as a journalist in a political forum where people are taking sides and asking you to make news and do your work on already decided opinions about pretty much any issue.
An expectation placed on a political journalist to fall into one expected line of thinking, the black and white one, sets a dangerous pattern for self-censorship and thought police where free speech is welcomed as long as you are stating a popular opinion against the other side of a political aisle.
I am frequently placed in situations where someone is firing at me, “Are you are a Russian?”. Fully loaded, ‘Identify or I’ll shoot’ type of question.
Stereotyping on the basis of national identities and Slavic origins has to stop. Especially since it’s the American citizens who are working or have been working for Sputnik in D.C.
Dear journalism border patrol, why don't you ask American citizents working for Sputnik in DC if they are Russians as they clearly do not work for the American interest.
Journalists in Washington should educate themselves before asking me if I am Russian which quite frankly I find bordering discriminatory. Why discrimination? Because a starting position instead of How do you do, places a derogatory identity on anyone who is a Russian national or has a Slavic sounding name.
So, before you start going around acting as border patrol officers, please get the facts straight. Serbia and Russia are two separate countries. Serbia is not Siberia and I do not speak Russian.
I will not list names here, as I do not find them relevant to tell the story, but they know who they are. As I am finishing this memo, I am sending it to my printer so the next time when someone asks me if I am a Russian, I will hand them a copy to make sure they’ve got The Pavlovic Report.
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